The Thought for the Day – John F Kennedy

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills… – John F Kennedy, speech at Rice University, 9/12/63

John F Kennedy was, of course, the 35th president of the United States. Long after his view on taxes or his performance during times of crisis have been forgotten, his decision to commit his country to sending men to the moon and returning them safely to Earth will be remembered. By any measure, Apollo 11 is one of our species most significant accomplishments and may well be our greatest. It certainly created a line of demarcation separating all that came before it from everything that followed.

Today’s Thought is, generally, the most quoted line from the speech, however – like Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty or give me death” speech – if this quote is your only frame of reference you are missing out. Kennedy’s speech that day is a wonderful commentary on what it means to be an American and a human. It is typical Kennedy: thoughtful yet accessible with a touch of humor and is delightful to read and listen to.

…that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.

The race to the moon did exactly that: it organized and measured and brought out America’s very best. It wasn’t easy. The 1960’s were times that were as contentious and tumultuous as they are now, perhaps more so, and was not an easy time for a nation to be farting around trying marshal its very best. We did it anyway.  

We’re not doing that now, though. We’re shooting each other left and right and bickering about who puts up what statue and we’re the worse for it: a fractured and bickering country that isn’t trying to organize and measure its very best. We long ago stopped demanding anything of ourselves or our leaders and the very best of our energies and skills are being wasted.

The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Quotes are from Gaylon’s private stock.


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